Note: This an editorial. An opinion-y thing that reflects a lot of earlier reporting on the topic, both by this publication and others. – Ed., er… Chris
President Scott Scarborough deserves a chance to explain himself. The community deserves a chance to hear him. He made comments that most of us would consider appalling now, but it’s important to remember he made them 30 years ago. One can only hope his opinions about human rights and his understanding of medical science have improved.
But there is something in the articles originally posted by Matt Muchowski, a blogger and self-described activist who has followed Scarborough since his tenure at DePaul University, that warrant consideration in context of current-day University of Akron.
In today’s post at The Infamous Scribbler, Muchowski follows up on a blog he wrote eight years earlier which contained references to articles published by the Daily Texan, the student newspaper at the University of Texas in Austin, where Scarborough was president of the student association.
During Scarborough’s tenure as student president, the student senate was asked to consider a resolution that would—only—urge the university’s Board of Regents to guarantee equal rights for gay and lesbian students and employees. First, Scarborough proposed an amendment that passing the resolution doesn’t mean the senate supports “the homosexual lifestyle.” When that amendment failed, Scarborough staged a walkout with seven senators. The resolution passed anyway.
Criticism and calls for his resignation followed. The more Scarborough tried to explain himself, the worse he comes across—especially now with the benefit of 30 years of hindsight.
What I think may be—in context of today—more concerning than the comments of the still growing 20-something (if he sticks by his comments and actions, then that’s disturbing) is what insight it offers into his approach to leadership. He didn’t like the resolution—despite its utter lack of power to affect change for the lives of homosexual students on campus—but instead of letting the democratic process play-out, he walked out and tried to call it something else afterwards.
It feels familiar.
- Says the name won’t change but then a photograph of a slide surfaces, clearly showing his intent to “do business as” Ohio Tech University.
- Lays off everyone in the Multicultural Center, the University of Akron Press and EJ Thomas but gets upset when people conclude those entities have been closed.
- Suggests eliminating baseball was a cost-cutting measure then puts the savings into more athletic scholarships and admits the move was largely symbolic and made to free up the land for a new entrance. (Not to mention telling the media they tried to save baseball by talking to the Akron Rubber Ducks, which the Double-A team says never happened.)
- Touts faculty involvement in the budget process but doesn’t mention it was only three people who read through the budgets and had no influence.
- Dismisses as “honest mistakes” the errors on a newly hired dean’s curriculum vitae, which falsely listed scholarly presentations he didn’t make and used a work history that masks an employment gap of about a year and a half.
- Ignores the “unacceptable” vote by the Honors College dean search committee to hire someone he worked with at the University of Toledo.
- Cuts 50+ positions from Student Success and gives a $840,000 contract to a company without clients or a background in higher education.
- Issues an RFP over Christmas break for an online nursing program worth millions to the winning—and only—bid, a company Scarborough worked with at DePaul and Toledo.
- And that whole Olive Jar Mansion thing.
This looks like bad communication to a lot of people—and in a lot of ways, it certainly is—but there’s an element that seems willful and intentional, like a preference to deal with bad press over “missteps” in communication rather than the core of the plan and its governing philosophy.
Or so it seems from the outside.
There’s a reason he wants to rebrand and change the name. That’s to be more attractive to people outside of Summit County. And there’s a reason for that too. Maybe a few more folks from Cuyahoga County or the Pittsburgh area might enroll on campus, but that probably isn’t the end goal. Perhaps it’s to make the university more attractive to prospective online students who take the classes from out-of-state. Then, for example, the administration can expand programs from online nursing degrees to other departments and colleges with a company like Academic Partnerships whose contract seems to allow that to happen without a new RFP. But then there’s also the state’s College Credit Plus program that gives students as early as 7th grade college credit through online programs run by the University of Akron. And what of One World Academy, a K-12 program proposed for the main campus with 9-12 grades at satellite locations? How do these pieces fit? Will they be outsourced like the online nursing program, student success coaches, dining, etc., etc.?
Personally, as an Akronite, and professionally, as a reporter, I would love to hear Scarborough’s plan and understand the philosophy behind it, then let the community on campus and around town debate its merits then let the chips fall where they may. However, it seems like he’s afraid to let that happen.
So while Scarborough’s personal beliefs about LGBT rights may have changed (fingers crossed) over the last 30 years, it doesn’t seem like his leadership style has.